Rewatching ST:TNG after a 20-year break.
In “Datalore,” an encounter with Data’s more human-like “brother” showcases Brent Spiner’s acting talents and the optical FX crew’s mad split-screen skillz. While I enjoyed the plot twists and character bits as they happened, as a work of science fiction this episode offers little beyond popcorn “evil twin” fare.
The opening captain’s log lampshades an unprompted, random visit to Data’s home planet. The “Wesley watches Data practice sneezing” scene is silly, but the character development subtly allies Data’s desire to be human with Wesley’s desire to be respected by adults. The scene also accustoms us to the idea that Picard uses Wesley to deliver in-person messages, which kinda sorta helps explain why in this episode Wesley ends up where he needs to be to witness just enough to suspect Lore, but not enough to prove anything to the dumb-as-a-fencepost adults.
I was impressed by just how likably Spiner was able to portray Lore. And while I felt for Data, the audience learns the truth so early that Picard and the other non-Wesley characters seem thickheaded. If the script had invested less time discovering and assembling Lore, and instead gave this new character the chance to do something meaningful that earned our trust, his betrayal would have packed more punch.
The fakey-looking planet set was nothing special, though I rather liked the little bit we saw of Data’s home colony. For the “putting Lore together” scene they hired a lot of actors to play supporting engineers. (Later in the series, they would have given those scenes over to LaForge.) I caught another brief appearance of a big flat tablet that seems to be mocked up as an electronic clipboard, but still haven’t spotted a genuine PADD.
Even nerdier nitpicks, with spoilers, follow.
- The first officer’s voice-over tells us the planet is “a completely dead world made out of lifeless vegetation,” which seems to be a post-production attempt to lampshade the scrubby plants that are clearly visible on the planet set.
- This episode firmly establishes that Data doesn’t use contractions, even though he’s already used them in previous episodes. I could easily forgive that as a relic of TV’s episodic past, but Data uses contractions several times in this very episode. For instance, immediately after defeating Lore, Data says, “I’m fine.” That’s just sloppy.
- Knowing that the shields are protecting them from a deadly crystalline entity that can destroy all life on a planet, Picard agrees to Lore’s bizarre suggestion that, to communicate with the entity, they lower the shields, beam a tree into space, and fire phasers at the tree. (Of course, it’s Lore disguised as Data.)
- After Lore leaves, Wesley begins to melt down, and Picard grudgingly orders a security team to follow the person he thinks is his officer Data. In the next scene, we see Worf and two guards round a corner and head for a turbolift, where Lore just happens to be waiting. What was he doing there? We already know the computer can track crew members, so a charitable interpretation is that perhaps Worf simply thought he was joining Data on the way to the cargo bay. Why, then, would Lore suddenly attack Worf?
- The music and camera angles made the scene dramatic, but those two security guards out in the hallway… weren’t they at least curious what happened to Worf? Presumably they know where Worf was taking them, but they never show up at the cargo bay.
- Back to Wes now. After being thrown off the bridge, he has enough time to talk his mother into checking Data’s quarters, where they find and revive Data. The three of them then make their way to the cargo bay, in time to catch Lore conspiring with the crystal entity.
- I can understand Wes and Beverly paying a surreptitious visit to Data’s quarters, but it seems reckless of them to head directly to the cargo bay, rather than calling for reinforcements..
- Fortunately for the plot as it’s scripted, the crystal entity makes a chirping noise that’s perfectly timed to mask the very loud, very distinctive sound of the cargo bay doors opening, which means we get sneaky people sneaking around the cargo bay set instead of just getting gunned down in the doorway.
- Crusher is a Starfleet officer, and presumably has at least some training in how to use a phaser; yet when she pulls one on Lore, she stands close enough to him that he can distract her and grab it from her.
- Perhaps she did call for backup and we just didn’t see it, but if she knew it was dangerous enough to pick up a firearm on the way to the cargo bay, why did she bring Wesley along?
- Perhaps they did call for backup on the way over, and we just didn’t see it. After Crusher flees the cargo bay, she returns less than a minute later with Yar, Riker, and Picard, all of whom we had just seen on the bridge. The implication is that she went to the bridge for help, though of course they may already have been on the way.
- Obviously for storytelling purposes it was necessary for Picard to show up at the end, but where were those security guards who were right behind Lore and knew all along exactly where he was headed?
- A later episode will establish that Lore spent two years floating in space. This episode doesn’t establish where Wesley beamed Lore, but…
- We know the crystal entity was waiting to attack when the ship lowered its shields.
- We know the crystal entity left without attacking, so we can assume the ship never lowered its shields.
- Because Star Trek canon establishes firmly that you can’t transport anyone through the shields, where did Wesley beam Lore? Somewhere outside the ship, but still within the shields?
- The 60s show established that the transporter can hold someone in transit. Why materialize Lore anywhere at all? (So the character can return in a sequel, of course!)